Cloud Dancer

New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age


The Girl with the Make-Believe Life

Eileen hates her defeated, joyless family and their poverty. She wants a guitar more than she’s ever wanted anything—badly enough to believe her shiftless father when he says he’ll get her one. Her sister, Deirdre, laughs at her for believing his tired promises. Her mother has no patience for selfish dreams. Life means only struggle for her: raising her daughters and eight-year-old Neal, whose stuttering has become something they’re forbidden to mention.

When Eileen and Neal meet Liz, a college student, Eileen plays her same old game, pretending she comes from a normal, caring family, from a good neighborhood. Liz offers her lessons, a chance to buy a guitar on easy terms, and a way to help Neal overcome his stuttering. It becomes harder and harder for Eileen to lie about her family, about the job she takes to pay for lessons, and about her mother’s reluctance to accept that Neal needs help. Then one cataclysmic day, the truth catches up with her.

Unless she can summon the courage to trust someone, Eileen may never see that she has a self worth believing in—and the right to have a dream and make it real. But for Eileen, trust is a dangerous thing.

Praise for Cloud Dancer

Originally published in 1993 by Scribner’s Sons, Cloud Dancer was selected by the New York Public Library for its list of Best Books for the Teen Age.


“Eileen resents her family’s poverty and, unlike her downtrodden mother and older sister, knows she must find money for a guitar and guitar lessons and for therapy to correct her younger brother’s stutter. A street musician named Liz helps Eileen find the courage to maintain her determination. Polished writing heightens the poignancy of Eileen’s small, but significant, inroads against hopelessness.”

The Horn Book


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About the Authormary-ann-photo

Mary Ann McGuigan is the author of four novels for young adults. Her writing has garnered recognition from the Junior Library Guild and the National Book Foundation, among others, and she served on the panel of judges for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Her short fiction and essays, mainly for adults, appear in newspapers and literary journals.